I am bad at being a stay-at-home mom. I never planned to do this, perhaps because of my innate sense that after a few weeks I would want to climb the wall and swing from a chandelier. I have a hard time explaining my feelings about stay-at-home motherhood because I don’t want to seem disrespectful. It is hard work. But I do have a story.
Recently, a friend invited me to go out for drinks in the evening, but I had something going on. But what was it? I had forgotten. The back of my brain tickled as I tried to coax out my deeply buried plans. After a few minutes, I gave up and agreed to go for drinks.
We went with several other moms, and as we walked into the bar, I saw the television. The presidential debate! My plan! I imagined myself at home with Barack and Mitt, my brow pinched with skepticism, my mouth waiting to pop open and hurl rebuttals at the TV, a glass of wine on the table in front of me. My beautiful fantasy. Had I driven my car, I would have excused myself and gone home, but I had ridden with the others.
I chose a seat facing the TV, hoping that I might get a small sense of the proceedings. Drinks were ordered, and typical mom conversations began: preschool, sports, Halloween costumes. And then everyone began to talk about TV shows. I didn’t know the shows they discussed, so I took the opportunity to try to read the closed-captioning on the TV. But I couldn’t smile politely and drink my lemon martini and read the flurry of TV type at the same time. I settled for assessing the candidates’ faces and the little graph that showed voter reaction.
The TV sat just to the right of one my friends. I feared that she would take my slightly off-kilter gaze as drunkenness. I considered my rude behavior. I hoped that she would take my slightly off-kilter gaze as drunkenness.
Eventually the conversation came around to the election, which everyone else was weary of, and I confessed my sadness at missing the debate. I have loved my work as a journalist and an editor. It’s a big part of how I identify myself. I know that my friends have interests outside of their kids, too, but those interests generally aren’t journalism and politics.
I feel guilty that I don’t love every minute of being home with Eleanor. I am so lucky to have her, and I know that more than I ever wanted to know it. But both of us are happier when we spend some time apart. I started a freelance editing job last week, and already I feel more balanced and level-headed. I’m always going to be Mom, but I’m always going to be Sarah, too. Both parts need nurturing.
Besides, the kid has taken to bandaging her own knees.